Thank you to the generous owners of Aunt Millie's Bakeries who donated this step van to NeighborLink Fort Wayne after a long life of serving delicious bread and keeping their fleet of vehicles on the road. It will now become our Mobile Project Command Center and Tool-Mobile, helping keep our volunteers active on job sites. We also owe a huge thank you to the Foellinger Foundation who awarded us a Limited Asset Improvement grant in August 2014 to fund this idea.
Back in the summer of 2014, we decided to respond to the needs of our volunteers and take advantage of an opportunity through the special Limited Asset Improvement grant cycle by the Foellinger Foundation to do what we would have never been able to afford, which was creating a mobile tool trailer. In August, they awarded us a $20,000 grant that let us make some technology upgrades as well as dedicate $15,000 towards purchasing an enclosed trailer and all the tools we'd ever need to complete a NeighborLink project. The vision was to continue eliminating any barriers between volunteers and the projects needing accomplished.
We didn't rush out to buy the trailer and tools because the Fall was near, which usually just means a lot of yard work, and we were strategizing about buying a building, which could have reshaped our vision for the tool trailer. So, we weren't in a hurry since we had a year to execute the grant strategy and wanted to make sure we made the best decision and leveraged the grant dollars as far as we could.
The building we were close to buying didn't work out and moved that strategy into the long-term strategy section of our efforts. With spring and summer volunteer activities ramping up right now, we didn't want to delay the tool trailer any longer, but we also knew that the trailer wasn't the best idea now that we've had time to think about it. The trailer was a great idea, but would require the use of our personal vehicles, which we were ok with, but we had vision for something bigger. We would have asked for a truck in the beginning, but the cost of both a truck, tools, and a trailer was beyond what we could have asked for. We were prepared to try to fundraise for a dedicated truck, but wanted to see what was available first.
The more we thought about it, the more we knew we needed something more and we wanted to take this blessing of an opportunity and maximize it the best we could. We thought of a lot of vehicles and strategies, but we kept coming back to a "bread truck" or step van kind of vehicle that could do everything we wanted. Be mobile, store all our tools, be lower to the ground, haul appliances and small moving jobs, and be a rolling billboard to attract attention to our organization.
Once the idea was set, we begin thinking through our options. We found a few used ones, but they're were anywhere between $5000 - $20,000, which was beyond our budget. One day it popped into our minds to question what a local bakery, Aunt Millie's, does with their vehicles as they phase them out of delivery service. Not knowing anyone at Aunt Milile's, we did what we know how to do, which was network our way in to find someone we could ask some questions. Thanks to Chad at BIG and our board member, Heather, who asked a friend who worked at Aunt Millie's, we had direct access to decision makers.
Aunt Millie's could not have been more easy to work with and jumped almost immediately at the opportunity to figure out whether they had a vehicle they could offer us. After a handful of emails and additional questions, Mellisa Dunning - Senior Director of Marketing, let us know that they did in fact have a vehicle for us and that they'd love to donate it to us. We had no choice but to say yes. They offered a beautiful truck that was no longer fit to deliver bread and had spent the last few years as a service vehicle keeping other trucks on the road. The truck has been well maintained, is still in great shape for our needs, and runs really well. We love that this truck has spent the last part of it's life at Aunt Millie's helping other trucks stay on the road. Truly meant to continue it's life in service to others.
We are completely blown away by their generosity and willingness to support our mission at NeighborLink in this way. We have a generous community of donors, supporters, and volunteers in Fort Wayne. Thank you Mr Popp for your willingness to donate one of your assets to us.
GO BUY SOME AUNT MILLIE'S BREAD THIS WEEK!
We will begin right away inspecting the truck, outfitting the back of it for tool storage, and then designing the graphics for the outside. The goal is to create a mobile project management vehicle that can show up to a job site and do anything from outfitting a group of 25 volunteers with yard work equipment to having all the tools to install a roof on a house. It will also become a mobile marketing experience in which we'll take it in parades, show up at farmers markets, and community events where we can highlight our work and have people walk through it to interact with our mission.
Click here to see a full gallery of pictures of the truck. Stay tuned for more pictures as we transform Millie into our vision. We feel grateful and blessed!